Allstate Sugar Bowl - Oklahoma v Alabama

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 5 Oklahoma


2013 record: 11-2 overall, 7-2 in Big 12 Conference (tied 2nd in conference)
2013 postseason: Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama (45-31 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 6/No. 6
Head coach: Bob Stoops (160-39 overall; 160-39 in 15 years at Oklahoma)
Co-offensive coordinators: Josh Heupel (9th year at Oklahoma) and Jay Norvell (6th year)
2013 offensive rankings: 18th rushing offense (223.9 ypg); 90th passing offense (199.1 ypg); 52nd total offense (423 ypg); 40th scoring offense (32.8 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: five
Defensive coordinator: Mike Stoops (eight years at Oklahoma)
2013 defensive rankings: 25th rushing defense (137.6 ypg); 30th passing defense (212.5 ypg);  20th total defense (350.2 ypg); 22nd scoring defense (22.1 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: nine
Location: Norman, Oklahoma
Stadium: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (82,112; grass)
Last conference title: 2012 (co-champions with Kansas State)

The Sooners lay claim to the best defense in the Big 12 conference. The unit finished 20th overall in total defense last season, which is an impressive feat considering the wide-open offenses seen during conference play. The defense is led by outside linebacker Eric Striker. Striker is one of the most intimidating defenders in the country. Not only is the linebacker one of the most explosive edge rushers in college football, but the Sooners move him around throughout the game to keep offenses on their heels. It’s nearly impossible for an offense to key on a specific defender and set their blocking schemes if they don’t know where he’s going to be lined up on a down-by-down basis. The team’s linebackers as a whole are very talented. Leading tackler Frank Shannon won’t play this season due to suspension, but senior Geneo Grissom showed how dangerous he can be opposite Striker with 2.5 sacks against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. And inside linebacker Dominique Alexander was named the 2013 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Both starting cornerbacks return as does strong safety Quentin Hayes. The defense will also get a boost when the massive (6-6, 334) Jordan Phillips returns to the lineup as the starting nose tackle after missing the final 10 weeks of the season due to a back injury. The Sooners defense is talented, aggressive and experienced. Even if Oklahoma’s offense struggles during stretches, the defense is good enough to win games for them this season.

If the Sooners are going to be earn a spot in the first College Football Playoff, the team absolutely has to be more consistent at the quarterback position. Expectations are sky high for Trevor Knight (see: below) after his surprising and dominant performance against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl. Knight has to prove it wasn’t an one-game aberration. The most damning evidence against Oklahoma’s quarterbacks last year was finishing ninth (out of 10 teams) in the Big 12 in passing offense. The ability to stretch the field vertically opens up the rest of the offense, but Oklahoma was never able to do so last year until the bowl game. And for a quarterback to be able to open up the offense, he has to have reliable receivers. Junior wide receiver Sterling Shephard will have to develop into a No. 1 target after finishing second on the team last season with 51 receptions for 603 yards. The Sooners’ other projected starters at wide receiver, Durron Neal and Derrick Woods, combined to make 15 receptions for 205 yards. Consistency at quarterback and wide receiver will be the primary indicator of how successful the Sooners are in 2014.

The University of Oklahoma suspended two of the team’s most talented players in Shannon and running back Joe Mixon prior to the start of the season for the entirety of 2014 campaign. Plus, the team hoped Missouri transfer Dorial Green-Beckham would be eligible to play this season. The NCAA denied Green-Beckam’s transfer waiver, and the wide receiver will have to wait until next year to make a mark with the Sooners…if he does at all. These are three very talented players that would have contributed plenty to the Sooners this season. Shannon was the team’s leading tackler in 2013. Sophomore Jordan Evans, who played in eight games last season as a true freshman, will take over for Shannon. The Sooners’ passing game will have to rely heavily on Shepard due to the lack of experience with the rest of the team’s wide receivers. Keith Ford and Alex Ross will split reps without the explosive Mixon being a part of the running back stable. Of the three, the junior linebacker’s suspension could prove to be the most problematic this season, while the team will simply have to wait another year to receive contributions from Mixon and Green-Beckham.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Tennessee
The scheduling within the Big 12 Conference is so underwhelming an one-loss Sooners’ squad might be the team on the outside looking in during the inaugural College Football Player. It’s quite possible Oklahoma will slip up at least once during Big 12 play. The reason the Tennessee game is so important is due to it being the team’s only non-conference game against a Power Five opponent. The Volunteers may have been 5-7 last season, but their affiliation with the SEC holds plenty of water. The game will be a test to see how Oklahoma stacks up against the best conference in college football. A resounding victory by Oklahoma will show the Sooners are superior to the SEC’s middle class. And it will leave a positive impression in the playoff committee’s collective mind as the Sooners attempt to navigate their treacherous conference schedule.

Knight made it look easy against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl. The ball effortlessly flew out of the quarterback’s hand as he broke a Sugar Bowl record with 32 completions for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Knight’s performance in the bowl game leaves a lasting impression on Heisman voters and provides momentum as he enters his first season as a full-time starter. The reality, though, is Knight didn’t play well during the regular season. Knight won the starting job in fall camp last year only to hand the spot back to Blake Bell. Knight’s highest output in a single game before his explosion against Alabama was 171 passing yards. In fact, Knight only passed for 471 yards and five touchdowns during his previous eight appearances. But Knight’s Heisman candidacy is based purely on potential. If Knight can play at the same level seen against Alabama throughout the 2014 campaign, the Sooners will be one of the best teams in college football and the quarterback will be sitting in New York City waiting to hear his name called as the latest Heisman Trophy winner.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

3 TDs from Skyler Howard give WVU 21-10 halftime lead on TCU

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 24: Quarterback Skyler Howard #3 of the West Virginia Mountaineers throws a pass against the Brigham Young Cougars during the first half at FedExField on September 24, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Looking to prove they are every much worth respecting, West Virginia is off to a good start at home against TCU in Big 12 play this afternoon. The Mountaineers took advantage of a special teams mistake by TCU on the opening kickoff and now hold a 21-10 lead at halftime.

Deante Gray had the ball knocked out of his hands on TCU’s opening kickoff return. West Virginia recovered the loose ball and setup the offense from the TCU 17-yard line. Skyler Howard completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Daikiel Shorts on a third and short for an early 7-0 lead. TCU’s first offensive possession did not last long, with an interception by Rasul Douglas giving West Virginia a second straight offensive opportunity on TCU’s side of the field, but West Virginia missed a field goal on the possession.

Howard completed a second touchdown pass later with a 22-yard play to Shelton Gibson to put West Virginia up 14-0. TCU got on the board on the ensuing possession with a field goal at the end of an 11-play drive. After a three-and-out by the Mountaineers offense, TCU pulled even closer with a 12-play drive capped by a Kenny Hill touchdown pass to Jaelen Austin. West Virginia wasted little time rebuilding the lead with Howard’s third touchdown pass of the half, this time to Gary Jennings.

West Virginia’s Elijah Battle was ejected from the game in the second quarter following the latest in a long string of controversial targeting penalties around college football.

No. 6 Texas A&M scores late to cut into No. 1 Alabama’s lead at halftime

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 17:  Texas A&M Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin reacts during an NCAA college football game against the Auburn Tigers on September 17, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alabama controlled the first half of play in their usual dominating fashion… right up until the final minute of the first half in their latest SEC West showdown.

Texas A&M cut into the Tide’s lead with an eight play, 80 yard touchdown drive just before halftime to head into the locker room down just 13-7 in a game much more lopsided than the score would indicate.

Prior to their final drive of the half, the Aggies couldn’t get much of anything going offensively and were averaging under three yards a play as Alabama’s defense dialed up the pressure and had several bone-rattling hits. Quarterback Trevor Knight made a huge run on 4th down as the clock was running out however to setup an eventual touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds that gave the visitors plenty of hope at the midway mark.

On the flip side, Crimson Tide left tackle Cam Robinson won most of his reps against Aggies star pass rusher Myles Garrett (who appeared banged up) in a marquee matchup for the dozens of NFL scouts on hand. Quarterback Jalen Hurts looked good running the ball and hitting intermediate throws but made a freshman mistake when tossing an interception right to linebacker Claude George during the second quarter to halt a drive.

While a nice development for the A&M defense on the play, they did lose a key player in Donovan Wilson as the result of targeting on the interception return and the Aggies offense promptly threw a pick on their first play after the turnover to give the ball right back.

Alabama had several other chances to extend their lead in this one during the first half but couldn’t quite take advantage thanks to some miscues that Nick Saban will no doubt be looking to correct in the locker room. Maybe the late score was just enough for Texas A&M to think they can make this a game in the second half but it should be a fun finish in Tuscaloosa either way for this top 10 matchup.

LOOK: Lamar Jackson strikes classic in-game Heisman pose

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 22:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals throws a pass during the game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

When we ultimately exit Week 8, Lamar Jackson will be far and away the favorite to take home the 2016 Heisman Trophy, and for good reason.

Jackson currently has 35 touchdowns in seven games. Entering Week 8, there were only 10 FBS teams with more touchdowns than the Louisville quarterback has all by himself. He’s already broken the school’s single-season touchdown record, and there are still five regular season games plus the postseason remaining.

In the romp over North Carolina State Saturday, Jackson accounted for five of those touchdowns, three passing and two rushing.  He also totaled 483 yards of offense, the fifth time this season he’s gone for 400-plus in a game.

The true sophomore — think about that for a moment, and then shudder if you’re a defensive coordinator on the U of L’s 2017 schedule — is on pace for a historical season, one for the ages that will be the stuff of lore for years to come. And, to that point, he’s now got a picture to go with it that’s worth much more than a thousand words.

Yeah, I’m thinking that photo will get some run, especially come mid-December

UCF still has no use for faux rivalry with UConn, walks off field without ‘Civil Conflict Trophy’

Civil Conflict Trophy
UConn athletics
Leave a comment

Normally when one side wins a rivalry game, they can’t wait to get their hands on the traveling trophy and hoist it high as they head off the field.  Of course, in order, for there to be a rivalry, both sides have to agree that, well, there actually is a rivalry.

Last year, to the surprise — and chagrin — of UCF, UConn abruptly revealed that there were “just 130 days until the next Civil Conflict” with @UCF_Football!”  The university even had a trophy created for the rivalry.  All of that was news to the Knights as they stated at the time that they “have no involvement with the trophy or creating a rivalry game with UConn.”

Fast-forward nearly a year and a half, and the, ahem, Civil Conflict was back on as UCF traveled to East Hartford to tangle with UConn for the fourth meeting in a storied series that began in 2013.  Four quarters later, the Knights walked off the field with a 24-16 win… and without the trophy.

Oh, UConn, this is not a good look. This is just sad.  And embarrassing.  If you have any dignity or self-respect left, give it up already.